Dilfer at the controls

This is the reason Trent Dilfer came to the 49ers - to play in front of family & friends and for the high-profile NFL team in the community he was raised. The 14th-year veteran has plenty of other incentive Sunday when he makes his first start with the Niners - he's facing a Baltimore team that pushed him out the door after he'd QB'd the Ravens to a Super Bowl in his lone season with the team.

Here, Dilfer covers a spectrum of topics regarding his first start at quarterback for the 49ers and Sunday's game against his former team:

On taking over as the starting quarterback for this week's game: "This is a great opportunity to get the work in practice to improve. I've always said in this game that you'd better be improving every day. I've got a great challenge ahead of me this week to improve and to get a sense of rhythm and timing with my team and let them get adjusted to me. It's not an excuse to throw two interceptions. I think it will definitely help this week to have some reps under my belt, a comfort level with what's going on."

On his feelings about going against a Baltimore defense that led the NFL last season and remains among the league's best: "It's a great one. They're very, very good. In 14 years you've got to put them with the great Steelers defenses and the great Green Bay defenses when they were winning Super Bowls with the best defenses I've played against. They create an incredible challenge. You have to be very precise in what you do. You have to be very instinctive and you can't think too much and preparation is paramount. It's a great challenge this week and my kids are well aware that they're not going to see me a whole lot but I'll make it up to them next week during the bye."

On the struggles of San Francisco's offensive line: "They're going to be fine. We're all in this together. There's things I can do as a quarterback to help. When we start playing with a better rhythm, and tempo and confidence, those things will fix themselves. That's a great group of players. They happen to be in the spotlight right now because of the number of sacks, but there's things you can do as a quarterback to help them out and I'm prepared to do that."

On him coming to San Francisco as a mentor for Alex Smith: "I'm never offended by the mentor role. I understand it and I embrace it. But when I came here, I came to be the best football player I can be. What separates me from some of the other backups is I can process that and do that and at the same time invest into the person that is playing. I've invested in both a great deal and having the leadership responsibility on this football team both through my play and my presence and in the process of doing that mentoring Alex. Hopefully, I taught Alex some lessons last week in what not to do in close games. And I'm going to try to go out there and play and still mentor by playing well and running this offense and getting us into the end zone. It works together in my book. I feel very prepared. I have a great understanding and grasp of this offense and the mindset to go out there and execute it to the best of my ability."

On being a game manager: "I think Tom Brady is a game manager. He just happens to be throwing it for 80 percent and 12 touchdowns in the process. There's a lot to managing a football game. It has its negative connotations which is fine and I understand, it started in about 2000 with me. I'm not offended by that. It's actually a much harder way to play the game of football to be processing and framing the game all the time instead of just going out there picking a guy and letting it fly. Or as Dan Marino used tell me, grip and rip it and don't worry about the consequences. That's a fun way to play and you can build up a lot of points doing that, but you can also have a lot of interceptions and you don't win a whole lot of close football games doing that."

On learning to manage a game while playing under Tony Dungy: "He taught me a whole lot about how to manage a football game and how to get your team in the best position to win games. That's what I'm going to try to do. You don't take unnecessary risks. Was there a hole to throw the ball there? Yes. Did it come up the way we hoped it would? Yes. But maybe in those situations in a 13-nothing football game you're at midfield with a chance to regain momentum. An 8-yard completion underneath to Frank Gore stings a defense as much as a 25-yard completion to Darrell Jackson, yet does not have nearly the risk factor associated with it. It's all progression offense, the true West Coast sometimes you need to get through guys a little bit faster based on the profile of the game."

On how Alex Smith is doing: "His spirits are great. He's doing everything in his power to get better as fast as he can and if there's a guy that can come back from something quick it will be him."

On what kind of opportunity he sees this being for him: "It's a great opportunity. It's very stressful for my wife and kids, but I'm excited about the opportunity. At the end of the day, this is why I came to San Francisco, was to play in front of my friends and family and a community that I love so much. I'm getting an opportunity, and I want to make the most of it."

On his feelings about the way Brian Billick handled his situation after Dilfer led Baltimore to its only Super Bowl in the one season he played there: "I regret many of the things I said in February. What I do stand by is I disagree with the situation. I'm heartbroken I didn't have the chance to repeat and go through the struggles of what that entails. Where I've been wrong, where Brian Billick has been the man and I've been the child, is that I haven't been able to let it go. And I feel very hypocritical because I'm dealing with my sixth-grader every day and talking to her about relationships and how to handle them and yet as a 35-year-old man I can't let something go in the past. I made a public apology to him. I plan on seeing him on Sunday and making sure he sees me face-to-face and let him know that I've let that go and I understand he had a decision to make and it's not my place to question that decision any more. I can disagree with it but I don't want to hold the bitterness any more. He's been the man, I've been the child and it's about time I fix that."

On playing better than he performed last week: "You cant worry about the other stuff. You've got to go play better than you did last week. I have to focus on me and being the best Trent Dilfer can be this weekend. There's 52 guys in that room and an entire community counting on me to play the best football of my life on Sunday, and that's a big enough responsibility in itself. I can't be worrying about who we're playing or what the circumstances are. It will just take away from ability to do what I need to."


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